Orange & Black Breakdown
by Marc Siciliano on 05/01/12 at 02:18 PM ET
The big news surfacing out of Philadelphia this morning reverberated through the hockey-sphere quicker than a piece of glass can hit the floor of a New York Knicks visiting locker room: Ilya Kovalchuk will miss Game 2 due to a lower body injury sustained in the first round.
This vicarious bit of news surely bodes well for a Flyers team already riding high with a 1-0 lead that came despite their best all-around effort, but it should not change their approach. They would be wise to learn from the misfortunes of the Rangers who are now facing a home ice disadvantage after letting Game 2 be decided in favor of the visiting Capitals. This game is a must-win if the Flyers wish to stay in control of the series.
A Hurt Kovy is a Devil indeed
It’s a scary thought, but allow your mind to wander for a second. No matter how it happened, if the Devils manage to squeak out a win tonight you have to imagine they would feel like they were in control of this series. Heading back home for a best-of-five with 3 home games has to sound pretty nice. Furthermore, accomplishing this feat without Kovalchuk would provide the Devils with a great sense of empowerment. The boost a player of his caliber would then provide when being brought back into the lineup is easily greater than the boost that JVR has provided, and look how much he has meant to this Flyers squad. These are things that the Flyers should look to avoid, and they can do so by winning Game 2 and maintaining their home ice advantage.
The Flyers have already laid out a solid blue print for home ice success this year in the post season with a 3-1 record, but there is definitely some room for improvement based on the first game this series. With Kovy out the Flyers focus will shift to shutting down Parise and Zajac, because Kovy being gone severely hinders the Devils depth and truly leaves them vulnerable to getting shut down offensively. This should lead to some easy minutes for some of the Flyers more offensively gifted forwards like JVR and Briere who were already seeing time against some of the more offensively challenged units of the Devils. If the Flyers can take advantage of this disparity in depth early and get into Marty and the Devils heads, this series could be over before it even heads up the turnpike.
On offense the Flyers need to keep getting in Marty’s face. JVR did so masterfully in Game 1, providing the perfect amount of disruption on his way past the net in Overtime while Danny Briere deposited the puck into the net with a slapshot from the point. Simmonds, Hartnell and JVR should take note and make a home in front of the net this series, because they would surely benefit from doing so. If the Flyers can continue their masterful offensive zone puck possession around the perimeter, the Devils would be forced to choose between putting an emphasis on one or the other – the puck or the man – either way, the Flyers have the personnel to beat them.
JVR has used his size and speed well thus far
The Devils being without one of their best forwards also gives the Flyers an opportunity to settle in defensively and get Bryz going. That lack of depth helps the offense, but it also (and more obviously) gives the team defense an opportunity to play a strong and confident game defensively without being too worried about an overly dynamic player that plays so many minutes. With less things to worry about the Flyers can focus on staying in the traditional shooting and passing lanes and playing a more simplified style of defense. If the Flyers can keep the shots simple and to the outside, Bryz should be able to develop a nice rhythm and possibly flip that switch we’ve all been waiting for. This could be a trophy scenario for the bear hunter, who already has 2 shutouts in the 4 games he has started versus the Devils this year.
One thing to keep an eye on is the TOI for the Flyers defense. Grossmann played the 2nd fewest minutes in Game 1 amongst defenseman with 16:26 of ice time and Coburn played 26:27, but otherwise the Flyers defensive ice time has been pretty balanced. As Grossmann continues to get better his time will increase, and with Meszaros soon to return this stat will only continue to level out for the Flyers; but this is a good thing. If guys were being forced to play over 30 minutes a night to compensate for the lack of depth the Flyers defense could grow tired quick, but with guys like Gustafsson rising to the challenge the Flyers defense has managed to grow more intimidating as the playoffs has unfolded – a sight rarely seen in the brutal months of the postseason.
Coburn led the Flyers defense in TOI in Game 1
The Flyers need to enter this game with nothing in mind but execution. There’s a reason why victory seems so attainable, but if they lose sight of how to get there their entire world can be flipped upside down in a matter of 60 minutes. With Kovy gone it might seem like the gameplan has changed, but maintaining possession and winning the offensive battle like they did in the latter stages of Game 1 should also be the keys to victory tonight. More importantly, this is the perfect opportunity to get some defensive confidence back and completely shut down a vulnerable opponent. On a night where everyone will be watching, don’t just win: send a message of dominance.
I’ll be looking at JVR and Briere in particular for a standout performance, but it wouldn’t surprise me to see the gritty guys do well either. Who do you think will be the top performer? Let us know in the comments section!
Lets Go Flyers!
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About Orange & Black Breakdown
The Orange & Black Breakdown looks to be the ultimate, around the clock source for news and information on the Philadelphia Flyers organization and it’s ever-present quest for the Stanley Cup. Focusing on what the team can do to achieve success is the ultimate goal.
The OBB is written and maintained by myself - Marc Siciliano. I’m a college graduate and media production professional in the sports industry with credits on projects like Hard Knocks: Bengals and 24/7 Penguins vs. Capitals: Road to the Winter Classic. A man of many hobbies, I always seem to find a way to spend a disproportionate amount of my daily routine with two things: Flyers hockey and social media (much to the dismay of my hockey impartial friends on twitter).
So what does this mean for you? The plan is to combine these
time-wasting habits passions with my love for writing to provide you with complete coverage of the Flyers from both my head and around the web, 24/7.
This is my second writing stint focusing on the Flyers, but for a much larger audience - so do be gentle. Different perspectives and opinions on the organization are welcome and encouraged. Just because I see it one way doesn’t mean I’m beyond seeing it your way as well, so speak up!
I’m always interested in interacting with readers, so find me on twitter (@marcs797) or email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) and let’s talk hockey.
Thanks for reading; Lets go Flyers!